As a teacher of herbal medicine I am always looking for ways in which to make the learning of herbs an easier and more enjoyable task. Having to learn 300 commonly used herbs is not an easy task and then to be able to remember the different qualities, the channels and their empirical use is almost impossible.
When I studied herbs, I found that herb comparison was what worked best for me and, in my experience as a teacher, have found out that students also benefit from this method.
The most commonly used method of stating the basic functions and providing elementary examples of herbal applications ‘lacks in precision in quality and quantity, and is not vivid and emphatic in nature, and as a result the students have to spend much more time on study and practice to really master the characteristics of herbs and to grasp the strategies to make their own formulae skilfully’, says the author.
Chinese Herbal Medicines is the perfect book for comparisons and for understanding the different qualities of herbs, the different temperatures and the different strengths. It is the perfect companion to Bensky and Gamble’s Materia Medica.
Part 1, ‘The theory and concepts of Chinese herbal medicine’, the most important chapter of all traditional Chinese Medicine books according to Kiiko Matsumoto, lays down the foundation for the study of herbal medicine. It has 14 sections where it discusses the four flavours, the five tastes and their clinical application; combination of taste and temperature of herbs; meridians entered; direction of herbs and its application; functions of the different parts of the plants; dosages; preparation; ways of taking; contraindications and substitutes. Everything you need as a foundation in order to begin the study of individual herbs.
Chinese Herbal Medicines aims to discuss the features of herbs instead of enumerating the common functions. Comparison is used as the main tool in explaining the fine differences between herbs that have the same or similar functions.
The theories and concepts of Chinese herbal medicine are used as principles throughout the analysis and explanations.
Part 2, ‘Comparisons and characteristics of the commonly used Chinese herbal medicines’, consists of 17 chapters , each corresponding to a herb category where the commonly used herbs are compared. The clinical applications of single herbs are presented according to the differentiation of syndrome in the traditional Chinese medical way, and the diagnosis in western medicine.
The book is very clearly written in a question and answer style and it follows the chapter content of most commonly used textbooks in Chinese herbal medicine. Each question and answer forms a small unit, so the book can be read all the way through, or each question can be studied individually.
At the end of each chapter a group of figures is presented. There are more herbs listed and compared in the figures than are in the text since it is easier and clearer to compare the temperature and strength of many herbs in this way.
For students and junior practitioners, this book offers a method of learning and memorising the function of herbs through the approach of comparing the characteristics and the strength of herbs with related functions or natures. Each question may be used to stimulate discussion and may be helpful in reviewing lectures.
For experienced practitioners, this book offers a comprehensive knowledge of Chinese herbal medicine and a deeper understanding of the theories and concepts of TCM. The fine analysis of the characteristics of herbs helps the practitioner to make a formula with better quality and result. The discussion of clinical application can be used in clinical practice to extend the treatment range.
The author studied traditional and modern medicine from 1977 to 1982 at Beijing University and, after graduation, worked as a teacher and doctor. She then completed her Master’s degree in Chinese Herbal Medicine and Formulas and then moved to the Netherlands in 1990, where she is now working.
Her knowledge of herbs comes from the study of ancient medical texts, from discussion and debate with colleagues in China and from practising in China as well as in the West.
Chinese Herbal Medicines is a very clear, well presented, easy to follow, easy to carry book which can make the learning, practice and teaching of Chinese herbal medicine easier and more enjoyable – and at a very affordable price.
Ana Maria Lavin Ana Maria Lavin Parot graduated from the London School of Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine in 1987 and runs a busy practice in London. She is the Module Coordinator for Chinese Medicine Theory, Tutor for the Chinese Medicine Herbal Course and Clinical Supervisor at the London College of Traditional Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine in London.